Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul told a business group this week that Medicaid has turned into “intergenerational welfare,” saying that coverage has spread well beyond those truly in need.
Asked about large Medicaid rolls in Kentucky, the tea party favorite said the health coverage generally should be temporary until people can help themselves. But he acknowledged that some will require long-term assistance.
Paul, who vows to push a balanced budget plan if elected, also said during an appearance at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on Monday that waste in the military budget and “corporate welfare” have contributed to the rising federal deficit.
Medicaid is a federal-state health insurance program that covers about 800,000 low-income and disabled Kentuckians.
Paul, who is running against Democrat Jack Conway in one of the country’s most closely watched Senate races, said Medicaid covers approximately half of the births in Kentucky.
“Half of the people in Kentucky are not poor,” he said. “We’ve made it too easy. And people are going to say, ‘Oh, that’s harsh, you can’t say that.’ Well, let’s take care of those who are truly in need, which would be a small percentage of the public. Let’s take care of them until they can take care of themselves.
“Let’s not have intergenerational welfare, and that’s what’s been going on and that’s a large part of this problem.”
Kentucky has about 57,000 births per year, and Medicaid covers about half of them, according to Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
The Associated Press reported in June that Paul, an eye doctor from Bowling Green, had since 2005 received slightly more than $130,000 in Medicaid funds. That’s about one-third of the amount he billed the program, according to the Kentucky cabinet that administers the program.
Paul’s campaign has said that about half of Paul’s medical income has come from Medicare and Medicaid payments — which it says is in line with the average for eye doctors around the country.
Conway campaign spokesman John Collins called Paul’s comments about Medicaid troubling.
“Apparently, Rand Paul is telling seniors and children who depend of Medicare and Medicaid that they are on their own,” Collins said.
Paul said Medicaid should be available to those truly in need.
“But when you see a guy like me hop out of his pickup truck, put his handicap sticker up and he’s going in to draw his check, that’s where the problem is,” Paul said.
It was the latest example of Paul wading into the thicket of a vast government assistance program in his race against Conway for the seat of GOP Sen. Jim Bunning, who is retiring after two terms.
During a debate on “Fox News Sunday,” Paul said the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare may need to be raised for future recipients. Paul said he doesn’t want to change those benefits for older people already receiving them.
Last month, Paul said Medicare recipients might have to “bear more of the burden” to shore up the health program’s finances. Paul said the options could include higher premiums.
Conway has been airing a TV ad showing Paul saying “the real answer to Medicare” would be for seniors to pay a $2,000 deductible. Paul has said he doesn’t favor such a deductible, and said he referred to it during a political meeting about 15 months ago to make the point that recipients need to share in the costs of the health care program for seniors.
Conway’s campaign on Monday released a video claiming that Paul repoeatedly referred to a $2,000 Medicare deductible.
Paul also told chamber officials that eliminating fraud and waste in the defense budget would help save money. Kentucky is home to two sprawling Army posts — Fort Campbell and Fort Knox.
He also took aim at corporate welfare being used to subsidize large corporations.
“We have corporate welfare that is significant,” he said. “It’s not just those who are on the lower part of the socio-economic … ladder getting money from government. We also have those at the top end of it getting money.”
Meanwhile, Paul said he supports charter schools as well as school choice, which he said would ultimately improve schools. Paul said the U.S. Department of Education grew significantly under Republican President George W. Bush, which Paul said was a mistake.
Paul also floated the idea of term limits for heads of federal regulatory agencies, suggesting they “be rotated in and out of offi ce … or maybe we have two that come in and it’s a bipartisan commission that runs these agencies.”